The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes
Homily for the
Sunday of the Year
Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
October 9, 2016
One day I was sitting in Mrs. Blanchette’s fifth grade classroom bursting with anticipation. My grandmother was picking me up from school early that day for a dentist’s appointment. I wasn’t excited about the dentist by any means, but I was excited about the fact that I was going to be out of school before noon and that I wouldn’t be going back until the next day. No doubt, after the dentist, we’d go have lunch, get some ice cream, and probably go someplace for me to pick out a toy. All I had to do was wait. Luckily, though, our classroom was at ground level, and we were perfectly positioned to see the school parking lot from our window, so I would know exactly when my grandmother arrived and would be all ready to go when the secretary announced over the PA: “Kyle Doustou, please report to the office.” I was watching the clock like hawk, unable to focus really, when finally my grandmother’s car pulled into the parking lot. But all of a sudden, as she got out of the car and began walking to the school, my classmates who were sitting by the window started to snicker. They began making fun of the “old lady” who was hobbling down the sidewalk. They mocked her “old lady” car, her “old lady” clothes, and her “old lady” walk. I was instantly both mad and embarrassed. Then one of them whispered to me, “Hey Kyle, isn’t that your grandmother?” I didn’t know how to answer, so I lied and said I couldn’t see her very well. But sure enough, I was almost immediately called to the office for dismissal and as I got up and left they called me out, “It is your grandmother!” and they all started to laugh. When we got into the car I felt so bad that I started to cry. My grandmother asked me what was wrong and, lying again, I told her that I was just afraid of going to the dentist. She comforted me, we drove off, and that was that. I didn’t have the guts to defend the one person I loved more than anyone else in the world because I was embarrassed.
Sometimes in life we value lesser things over greater things. We value the opinions of our friends over the love of our grandmothers. Or we value the opinions of men over the love of God.
“This saying is trustworthy: if we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” These are the words of the Apostle Paul in our second reading today, his second letter to Timothy. Scholars are in agreement that this was probably the last letter Paul wrote before his death, and so it is not surprising to hear in them a great sense of urgency. Paul is strongly challenging us here and he’s offering us a very stark reminder: we’ve got one shot at this life and we don’t know how long it’s going to last, so we better make it count. We better get out priorities straight, we better figure out what it is that we value most in life, and we better be true to it. In other words, we have to be ready to die with Christ and to persevere in Him. If we’re not, if we deny Him, if we are unfaithful to Him, we cannot expect that He will recognize us when this journey of ours is complete.
There can be no doubt about it: our world today is growing increasingly secular and Christ is not merely being regulated to the sidelines, He’s being kicked to the curb. He’s being forgotten in marriages and in families, He’s being mocked by agenda-driven political activists, He’s being ignored in our political life and in the voting booth. Christians throughout the United States and the first-world are happy to love Him in private, to reap the graces He gives us in our private lives, but He embarrasses us in public and so we, too, so easily ignore Him. We don’t say grace before eating in public, we hide the crosses around our necks, and we never breathe a word of our love for Him. No doubt some of us are scared of what other people will think of us…but the reality is, the more we cower, the more we refuse to be ourselves in private and public, the more we’re going to appropriate the opinions of the crowds in our own life. We’ll slowly grow tired of being hypocrites until one day we give Him up altogether, denying Him and placing ourselves in the popular ranks of the unfaithful.
One day while I was walking to class in Washington, D.C., a truck pulled up next to me. A man rolled down the window and started yelling obscenities at me. He spit at the ground where I was walking and then took off. I was wearing my clerical collar and so I was a very obvious target. I was angry and embarrassed. But soon after that, a few of my fellow seminarians ran up behind me, patted me on the shoulder, and encouraged me. I immediately felt stronger, calmer, and more resolute in my vocation. There’s certainly truth to the old saying that “there’s strength in numbers.” And this is exactly why Christ doesn’t let us follow Him by ourselves as lone wolves. He gives us the Church, His very body, and He calls us to follow Him as a body. When the going gets tough, we can rely on the strength of the rest of the body to hold us up.
My friends, as members of the Church, as the Body of Christ, we have to get better at this. We have to get better at banding together, standing for our beliefs, and defending our Christ. We have to get better at wearing our faith inside and out, at loving and forgiving one another, and getting serious about the most important things in life. We have to stop being so darned concerned with our political agendas, our bank accounts, and what others think about us, and start getting rock solid in our faith so that when one of us feels the pressure of the world, he or she has something strong to hold on to. We have to start being proud of the One we love above all else, whether it’s in our living room or in Monument Square, whether they praise us or laugh at us, whether they accept us or reject us.
“No servant is greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Let us be bold, my friends…bold, courageous, and faithful. And when we’re afraid, or embarrassed, or angry, or hurt, let’s make sure that we keep returning to this altar where the Way, the Truth, and the Life will strengthen us.